I will admit that I have not read the Hunger Games novels, which have been taking up space on my Kindle for awhile. Mockingjay Part I is the first film where I thought that I probably should have read them before committing to watch the series. I did enjoy the first movie in the series. I thought the second one, last year’s Catching Fire, was too repetitive of the first and didn’t add much to the overall story line to be interesting. I was glad to finally be finished with the cycle of games and trips to the decadent Capital City. I was worried that the third installment would come up with another way to get Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) back in the arena. I have moved on from that, even though Katniss appears to be a stuck in the film, rehashing issues that I thought were already resolved in her love life and her role as a hero.
The story of Mockingjay picks up where the last film left off – the simmering rebellion of the first two films is now a full scale revolt and hopefully a revolution. Katniss spends a good portion of Mockingjay hesitant to become a symbol of the rebellion, but honestly, by this point it felt way too late for her to decide one way or the other. We had covered that ground before in Catching Fire. I guess the series hadn’t finished milking the character’s “reluctant hero” emotions yet. It doesn’t make her any more appealing as a character to have her attempt to remain on the sidelines in what is most likely the biggest political upheaval of her times. It is no longer tragic that she is thrust into a “leadership” role in a war that will result in the deaths of many innocent people that she does not want. Instead its a little boring. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes covered that issue with far more pathos earlier this year.
On the romance front, since Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) spends most of the film as a prisoner in the Capital City, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) finally gets significant screen time with Katniss. I assume that in the books Gale’s role makes sense and his relationship with Katniss is clearer and better defined. Since he’s been out of the main storyline in the first two films, I didn’t see the point of having him be a focus of attention in this one. He appears to be a very good friend, but doesn’t appear to be any more useful to the story than any number of supporting characters who are fans of Katniss. He may be many things that Peeta isn’t- brave, passionate for the cause, good with weapons, and not suffering from a disassociative personality disorder- but there isn’t much chemistry between Kateness and Gale and never has been in the films. He’s brave and he’s been in love with Kateness before, but in the background of the rebellion, his love for her seems more a pesky intrusion than something worth spending time on.
Overall, I thought that the movie was fine, just like the series itself is fine, but never great. It could have easily been condensed into 40 minutes and we most likely could have concluded the entire series with a single movie. Mockingjay isn’t the installment of the Hunger Games that will win any new fans to the series. By this time, either you have read and liked the Hunger Games series of novels or watched the first two movies in this series, in which case you are going to like the first installment the series conclusion. Otherwise, you won’t know what is going on. Mockingjay isn’t good enough for me to write a review begging series haters to reconsider. For the casual fan, so little happens in the movie that he or she probably would do well to skip it and wait for Part II.
**1/2 of five
IMDB: Mocking Jay Part I